WORK TO SAVE DOSE: CONTRASTING EFFECTIVE DOSE RATES FROM RADON EXPOSURE IN WORKPLACES AND RESIDENCES AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF PUBLIC AND OCCUPATIONAL REGULATORY LIMITS


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Abstract

Abstract—Office workers are exposed to radon while at work and at home. Though there are a multitude of studies reporting radon concentrations and potential lung and effective doses associated with radon progeny exposure in homes, similar studies in non-mine workplaces are lacking. Additionally, there are few, if any, comparative analyses of radon exposures at more “typical” workplace with residential exposures within the same county. The purposes of this study were to measure radon concentrations in office and residential spaces in the same county and explore the radiation dose implications. Sixty-five track-etch detectors were deployed for 3-mo sampling periods in office spaces and 47 were deployed in residences, all within Los Alamos County, New Mexico. The measured concentrations were used to calculate and compare effective dose rates resulting from exposure while at work and at home. Results showed that full-time office workers receive on average about 8 times greater exposure at home than while in the office (2.3 mSv y−1 vs. 0.3 mSv y−1). The estimated effective dose rate for a more homebound person was about 3 mSv y−1. Estimating effective doses from background radon exposure in the same county as Los Alamos National Laboratory, with thousands of “radiological workers,” highlights interesting contrasts in radiation protection standards that span public and occupational settings. For example, the effective dose rate from background radon exposure in unregulated office spaces ranged up to 1.1 mSv y−1, which is similar to the 1 mSv y−1 threshold for regulation of a “radiological worker,” as defined in the Department of Energy regulations for occupational exposure. Additionally, the estimated average effective dose total of >3 mSv y−1 from radon background exposure in homes stands in contrast to the 0.1 mSv y−1 air pathway effective public dose limit regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency for radioactive air emissions, and both these are substantially lower than effective doses associated with priority radon levels in homes of “tens of pCi L−1 and greater” (>370 Bq m−3), as suggested by the Health Physics Society.

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